Oh, did I catch you smirking after reading the title above? Either you’re one of the lucky few who are warmly bundled up in your love nest, or you’re the jaded type who is convinced that love is a myth. No judgment coming from me here—you are who you are because of your life journey to date.
Which one am I? Oh, I’m one of those poor unfortunate souls who remain hopeful of love despite countless, dramatic highs and lows– more lows, actually—we’ve encountered. We’ve been labeled anything from “hopeless romantics” to “blind and stupid”. But hey, again, we are who we are because of our life journeys so far.
And whichever group we are in, we all had to survive the annual Valentine’s Day.
The day which origin is widely believed, depends on the version, as either the birthday or beheading of a 3rd century saint has morphed commercially into, in US alone this year, a USD 18.6 billion market. The biggest volume chunks go to cut flowers and chocolates, while value is booked largely by jewelries. Sweet deals indeed, especially in for US retail business that’s still withering the credit crunch slump.
In Indonesia, where economy has grown 6% steadily thanks to, among others, the rapidly rising middle class, everything has been rosy pink and, added the Lunar New Year that fell four days before Valentine’s this year, bright red all around. An unscientific survey at downtown Jakarta’s florists showed 20-40% price increase for flowers (a 50-60% hike for the world-renowned Ecuadorian roses, by the way). Restaurants offer aphrodisiac menus and the reputably romantic ones were fully-booked since January. Some lingerie and jewelry stores threw candies to sweeten their Valentine deals even more. The Japanese fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo and our own local-designer-haven Brightspot Market also chose this auspicious moment to launch a new action in town.
The other side of the pond has been bustling as well. In addition to the usual rallies by over-sensitive ultra-conservatives, who by the way need to understand love more than anybody else, the anti-Valentine parties by the proudly embittered ones have also been sprouting. The funny thing I noticed was that those parties tend to consume equally voluminous food and drinks that ironically just added to total Valentine’s Day commercial worth.
And this is when this hopeless romantic silently ask; is it all there is to Valentine’s Day here?
I enjoy being wined, dined and showered with love just like the next girl. But it’s sad to witness that when it comes to Jakarta in particular, the biggest day of romance has been confined mostly to the walls of malls and hotels, along with hordes of other couples. Jakarta’s dreadful lack of comfortable public spaces and efficient transportation modes has robbed lovebirds from sweet park picnics, romantic strolls, sexy beach dates, cultural museum day or opera night, or even intimate silence while reading next to each other at public libraries. I’ve done all of those for a date, just as one of my most memorable Valentine dates involved catching buses and braving sidewalks on a heavily snowing day to sample ice cream from any of the town’s ice cream parlor. They were all romantic, private, affordable, and didn’t take elaborate planning as we knew that the public services were available and dependable.
It pains the hopeless romantic me that Jakarta seems like a light years away from such certainty, as nowadays an hour of rain will translate to hours of traffic jams and downpour means flood.
Jakartans malls were like zoos yesterday, just like during the Lunar New Year as many families, with members living scattered across the sprawling city, now found it too impractical to gather in a particular house, even as the sacred day fell on a Sunday. The malls have literally become gilded cages that most weary Jakartans voluntarily take refuge from and to forget about their often cruel and choiceless metropolitan. Even so, when the rain starts to fall at 4pm on a Friday, there goes pretty much our entire social agenda down the snaking, slippery streets as we’re often better off to just trot home while we can.
Jakartans have been forced to become too practical for our own good. When many men would opt for meeting you at a place instead of picking you up, because braving the traffic might rival Moses parting the Red Sea, who’d still dare to dream for a man penning you love notes beyond simple electronic texts, or making other grand, romantic gestures?
Now let me nibble on some chocolate leftovers while reading the new horoscope– heard the Water Snake year may have plenty of romance in store. Yeah, yeah, call me a hopeless romantic.